High-risk pool enrollment grows steadily

Enrollment in new state-based insurance pools finally topped 20,000 in April, according to new figures released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department.

The pools for high-risk patients have fallen far short of their enrollment targets, thanks in part to high premiums. Nationwide, the pools grew by a total of roughly 3,100 people in April — the most recent month for which data is available.

Total enrollment was at 21,454 as of April 30, according to HHS. The increase from March is roughly in line with previous months' updates.

Late last month, the department announced that it would lower premiums in the 23 states where high-risk pools are operated by HHS. The remaining 27 sates run their own plans.

The insurance pools were designed as a temporary bridge for people with pre-existing conditions. Beginning in 2014, insurance companies will be required to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Until then, sick people can enroll in one of the new high-risk pools.

Originally, people were only eligible for the high-risk pools if they had been denied coverage from a private insurer. HHS dropped that requirement last month at the same time it reduced premiums.